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Across The XFL: Supplemental Draft, Training Camp Details, Vegas Stadium Situation

XFL 2023 is just days away from starting its league-wide training camp in Arlington, Texas.  The revived league will kick off its regular season Saturday, February 18th, on ABC, ESPN, and FX.

The XFL has reached several checkpoints in its rampway toward 2023. In the last month and change, the league added over 400 players to its eight-team rosters and revealed their team uniforms and playing rules for the 2023 season. 

However, XFL 2023 still has a lot of heavy lifting to do as the season rapidly approaches. With that in mind, let’s look at all the latest and upcoming developments across the league.

XFL 2023 Supplemental Draft/Added Player Additions

Sources inside the XFL indicate that the league’s supplemental draft could come as soon as the first or second day of the new calendar year. However, the situation is fluid and could change. The early projection was for the first week of the new month.

There are 72 roster openings league-wide heading into the XFL’s next phase of player acquisitions. A combined 456 players are presently listed on the league’s rosters.

The maximum amount of players XFL teams can carry in training camp is 66. (*528 for all eight teams)  All eight teams in the XFL have over fifty players listed on their current rosters.  

As of press time. Here is where the XFL team rosters stand on Monday, December 26th. In terms of roster availability. The numbers could change depending on how many players commit to the XFL for 2023. Keep in mind that XFL-drafted players who haven’t signed letters of intent could choose to exercise other playing options.

XFL 2023 CURRENT ROSTER SIZE 

Arlington Renegades: 56 players, 10 available roster spots.

D.C. Defenders: 54 players, 12 available roster spots.

St. Louis Battlehawks: 55 players, 11 available roster spots.

Orlando Guardians: 60 players, 6 available roster spots.

Las Vegas Vipers: 59 players, 7 available roster spots.

San Antonio Brahmas: 55 players, 11 available roster spots.

Houston Roughnecks: 61 players, 5 available roster spots.

Seattle Sea Dragons: 56 players, 10 available roster spots.

Seven players drafted by XFL teams in November have either signed on with NFL teams or opted for other league options in the last few weeks. Most recently, assigned Seattle Sea Dragons quarterback Steven Montez signed onto the Detroit Lions practice squad. However, it would appear likely that the move would indicate that Montez would not be a part of the XFL in 2023.

Sources have suggested that the door is being left open for him by Seattle, should he decide to return or in the event that the Lions don’t retain him. Montez wants to play in XFL 2023, but he could opt to try his NFL chances for the third time. 

‘Players With Expiring Contracts From Other Leagues’ 

A January 1st or 2nd Supplemental Draft seems to suggest that players who have expiring contracts on 12/31 in the United States Football League will be a part of the next wave of XFL player acquisitions. 

Two familiar names attached to the XFL in recent months are USFL 2022 quarterbacks Jordan Ta’amu (The now-defunct Tampa Bay Bandits) and Bryan Scott (Philadelphia Stars). As of January 1st, any USFL players who did not opt-in to the second year of their USFL contracts are free to join the XFL if an opportunity presents itself.

Both spring league star quarterbacks have spent time training with the XFL’s Director of QB development, Jordan Palmer. While under contract with the USFL, they are within their right to train with the QB trainer to the stars independently.

But every indication is that Ta’amu, a former star with St. Louis in 2020, and Scott, one of the most productive QBs in spring pro football since 2020, are XFL-bound. The latter is expected to join the Las Vegas Vipers to be ironically enough paired with another USFL signal-caller in The New Jersey Generals, Luis Perez.

The landing spot of Jordan Ta’amu could be an interesting one as well. The logical connection would be with his former Battlehawk coaches, Jonathan Hayes and Chuck Long. But perhaps Ta’amu could see a reunion in St.Louis or could provide an experienced hand at QB for teams like Orlando or D.C.

Prior League Connections/Supplemental Draft Pool

Several coaches in XFL 2023 have apparent ties to players they coached in the USFL in 2022. Coaches like defensive coordinators Cris Dishman (NJ Generals-Vegas Vipers), Tim Lewis (Houston Gamblers-Arlington Renegades), and offensive line coach Jonathan Himebauch (Birmingham Stallions-Arlington Renegades).

As a result, it stands to reason that coaches like these will look to reunite with players they have a recent history of coaching. The Renegades drafted multiple USFL players who were free agents in November. Not surprisingly, Jonathan Himebaugh, a highly accomplished offensive line guru, has two first-team All-USFL players on his front in Arlington. (OT Garrett McGhin & IOL Cameron Hunt).

The pool of players in the XFL Supplemental Draft will also include those who graduated from the NFL Alumni Academy and who were cut by NFL teams in 2022. Either players were final training camp casualties or those who have been let go from practice squads since September.

There is also another area of ambiguity involved in XFL 2023 team additions. The NFL regular season ends on January 8th, with the XFL supplemental draft occurring immediately in the New Year. It would seem to suggest that any current NFL practice squad players are off-limits.

However, it’s been suggested to me by sources close to the league that teams could make player additions from that crop while training camp is in progress; any NFL practice squad players who are not offered that do not accept a futures deal with their respective clubs could be late additions to XFL teams. 

XFL 2023 Training Camp Details

Players will report to training camp on the 4th and 5th of January for medical testing and pre-camp-related activities before beginning full-on practices. Some may arrive on January 6th. 

All eight of the XFL’s teams will begin a centralized league-wide training camp on January 8th in Arlington, Texas.

XFL 2023 is setting up shop in the DFW area from January through May for the entirety of their season. During these five months, players will train in the state and be housed at local hotels with daily meal service provided by local restaurants and caterers. The individual XFL teams not situated in Texas, like the D.C. Defenders, will travel to their respective cities on gameday.

However, in a unique wrinkle, all eight XFL teams will be paired off to practice against each other. Iron will sharpen as the teams prepare for and play a ten-game schedule during the 2023 season.

  • Choctaw Stadium, the former home of the MLB’s Texas Rangers, will serve as the in-week practice facility for the Arlington Renegades and Houston Roughnecks and will be the home stadium for Arlington. In partnership and collaboration with REV Entertainment, the exclusive event coordinator of Choctaw Stadium, the XFL will also utilize Choctaw and its surrounding venues for team meeting spaces.
  • The XFL’s centralized Hub will also consist of three additional local practice facilities – Northwest ISD Stadium, Southlake Carroll Dragon Stadium, and Vernon Newsom Stadium, further expanding the league’s footprint in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
  • The D.C. Defenders and St. Louis Battlehawks will share Vernon Newsom Stadium, and the Orlando Guardians and San Antonio Brahmas will pair up at Northwest ISD Stadium. And fittingly, the Seattle Sea Dragons will be at Southlake Carroll Dragon Stadium with the Las Vegas Vipers.
  • Cut down for regular season rosters will occur by February 9th as the roster size will decrease from 66 to 50 players.

Despite being a revived league in name, the XFL is essentially a professional league with eight newly constructed teams. There are connections between each coaching staff, the players, and individual team personnel leaders. However, there will still be a steep learning curve to get the teams to gel together when the season starts and progresses.

The XFL Vegas Stadium Situation

Any day now!

Perhaps by the time this article is published, as I type this during the Christmas Miami Dolphins-Green Bay Packers game. The XFL will finally announce where the Las Vegas Vipers will call home in 2023. Cashman Field, Bishop Gorman High School, or even Arlington for the 2023 season. Heck, the Vipers will be practicing at Southlake Carroll High in the DFW; maybe that could be their home.  

The next major domino to fall in XFL 2023’s agenda will be their team and TV schedule. But until the Vegas Vipers officially announce a playing home. The entire league is in a holding pattern.  

There is growing frustration from XFL enthusiasts that the league has not been able to finalize a deal to this point. But the key figures affected the most are the staff members of all seven of the other XFL teams. It’s challenging for them to make a marketing push for ticket sales at this late stage. As it already is, let alone having to embark on that challenge with the clock ticking away.

Ironically enough, the XFL’s new leadership group took a significant gamble betting on Las Vegas as one of its new markets for the revived league. They did so without knowing where their relocated Tampa team would play their games. Gerry Cardinale and RedBird Capital Partners are ready, willing, and able to play high-stakes poker, and the only problem is that they haven’t been invited to the table yet.

XFL Hurdles In Las Vegas

The early word through sourcing was that XFL 3.0 was angling toward a deal with the Las Vegas raiders-managed Allegiant Stadium. Some sources have suggested that the league has always hoped to make a deal at the eleventh hour with Allegiant. The league and the Vipers are hoping to roll snake eyes late in the game. But with very little leverage on their side, the financial demands for renting the high-class venue have been astronomical to the point where people close to the negotiations have labeled the terms exceedingly unreasonable. 

Recently, there have been suggestions and some smoke that Las Vegas and some of its power brokers haven’t exactly greeted the XFL with a welcome wagon. Some sources close to the situation believe that Raiders owner Mark Davis has contributed mightily to deflating the XFL’s tires.

Ironically enough, it was the legendary Al Davis, who once trailblazed a path for an alternate pro football league called the AFL, that changed the entire landscape of pro football forever. 

Tinfoil hat conspiracy theories aside, whether valid or not, there’s no denying that the XFL hasn’t been welcomed with open arms by Vegas to this point.

Back in November, in a story published by Alan Snel of LVSportsbiz.com. As league owners Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dany Garcia, ESPN cameras, and all XFL teams were in Vegas at the UFC’s Apex building for the player draft. UNLV Senior Athletic Director Mike Newcomb shot down any possibility of the Vipers playing at Sam Boyd Stadium. “Sam Boyd has been closed for good since 2020″ “No one from the league has even inquired” They know it’s not an option.”

It wasn’t exactly informative news because anyone with knowledge of a stadium that once upon a time played home to leagues like XFL 1.0 and the UFL’s Las Vega Locomotives knew that Boyd was off-limits. Boyd’s former tenants, UNLV and the Las Vegas Bowl, have moved to the Raiders-managed Allegiant Stadium. 

The XFL approached Las Vegas Ballpark about using the home of the Triple-A Las Vegas Vipers for its Vipers games. However, Aviators President Don Logan told LVSports Biz that the Vipers would not fit in the 10,000-seat ballpark owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation. The Aviators, an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, averaged just under 7,000 fans per game, and the XFL in 2020 averaged nearly 20,000 league-wide.

No matter where the Vipers end up playing, their excellent team staff and players, led by Rod Woodson, will be game even if the city of Vegas is not. XFL 2023 bet on the market’s viability. There’s no turning folding in your chips now. But if the Vipers play in Texas, it could signal a possible shift to a more deserving city in 2024.

No matter where the Vipers play in 2023. The XFL has to pick their poison now so the whole league can move forward. The final card in the league’s deck has to be shown.

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I am a credentialed reporter and writer. Over time, I have covered and followed the NFL, NCAA, and multiple football leagues intensely. Like the USFL, CFL, WLAF, NFL Europe, AAF, UFL, and of course, the XFL. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

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